I was 16 when I first wanted to start my own business.
I was living in Sri Lanka and just finished O/Ls (high school). Country was politically unstable and everyone knew war will start soon. Many of my friends were leaving the country. Some could afford to apply to foreign universities. Others were considering taking the risky and illegal routes.
Two years before that I first read about the internet. I wanted to be part of it. I learnt how to build web sites and a local startup offered me to join as an apprentice. It was the era of internet portals and this company owned the most popular ones in Sri Lanka. Many friends at school didn't believe me. "No business will offer a job for a 14-year old". I didn't even bother telling them the part about getting paid.
Soon, I started to believe I can create a better portal site. I just wanted to finish high school, so I can start my own thing. I will be immune to country's instability - I will get paid from the internet.
When I told my mentor about my idea, he said "You are not ready!".
I naively thought he doesn't want more competition to his business.
"Portals probably won't even exist in next 2-3 years. You don't know internet. You don't know computers. You don't know business. Heck, you don't know the world."
"You probably read about Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. But accept the reality. You live in a third-world country. You are not from a rich, well-connected family. You are a nobody. At best, you will end up creating another outsourced sweatshops."
My bubble popped.
"Instead focus on polishing your skills. Learn English. Go to university. Make new friends. Fall in love. Solve hard problems. Work with smart people. Go see the world. Explore different cultures. Don't waste the best years of your life."
I was in denial. When I will be ready to start my own business? "You will find out".
I decided to fight against my odds. On that same year, Eminem released "Lose Yourself".
Snap back to reality, oh, there goes gravity
Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked, he's so mad but he won't
Give up that easy, no, he won't have it, he knows
I got selected to university. I was the only one from my school. No one in my family has gone to university before (my brother followed me afterwards).
I coded. Still on web, but not portals. Google killed portals.
I got opportunities to work cloesly with smart people.
CurdBee, bootstrapped in Sri Lanka, made revenue and became profitable. Nitrous, a dev tools company born out of Singapore successfully raised a Series A in Silicon Valley. Atlassian, based in Sydney had one of the most impressive tech IPOs of 2015.
All of them challenged the status quo, went against conventional wisdom. It felt awesome to play a part in those stories. More importantly, I experienced the hard thing about hard things.
I lived in 3 countries. Visited more than 25 cities in 12 countries. Made lot of interesting friends. All that while holding a passport that's ranked as one of the worst in the world. I have spent ridiculous amount of time dealing with immigration offices and embassies.
Visas are not the only hard thing with moving. I had to rebuild my connections. I had gain trust. I had to change habits. Only thing that didn't change in all these years was going to church on Sundays. It was the only place that felt familiar anywhere in the world.
I saved. So I can bootstrap on my own. I stayed single. I never went for a mortgage or a car lease. I got the permanent residency in Australia as an insurance.
"In the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did"
― Daniel M. Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness
I turned 30 this year. It's been 14 fucking long years. A journey that felt lonely and tiring. Yet my ambition hasn't fade.
Early this year my dad passed away. I felt empty going home. All that moments I missed. Was it still worth?
I didn't want to lose to myself.
I realised I will never be ready. Odds will be always against me. But I'm here only because I decided to bet against the odds.
I'm more afraid of success than failure. If I fail, I can go back to my previous life and people would say "Nice try and that's a cool story bro".
But what if I succeed? Will I still have the control? Will I still have my sanity? Will my family and friends still be with me?
There's only one way to know.